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Weather—Wind, Fall on Snow/Ice, New Hampshire, Mount Wasington, Odell Gully

WEATHER-WIND, FALL ON SNOW/ICE

New Hampshire, Mount Washington, Odell Gully

On December 4, a climber was traversing into the center of Odell Gully with his two partners. They were about a third of the way across the neck of the gully when a gust blew the lead climber off his feet and spun him, causing him to strike his face on the ice. He slid 400 feet down-slope on windslab and boilerplate and did not self-arrest because of being in a state of shock from the blow he experienced. He slid into rocks and stopped. His partners down-climbed to him, tied him in, and lowered him to more moderate terrain. One of his partners then went to call for help from Harvard cabin.

Analysis

The climbers were unroped but were planning on roping up when they reached technical terrain. The avalanche conditions were posted as “considerable” at the time. None of the party members had avalanche training nor were they equipped with beacons or the like. No party members were wearing helmets. They had not climbed together before. The leader/patient has 12 years ice climbing experience in Quebec, mostly on steep ice, but lots of time on Mount Washington and similar alpine climbs. The other climbers were similarly experienced.

The patient had no brain trauma and only sprains of both ankles (mild). His nose was broken with underlying ethmoid bone fractures that sent thin bone chips into both frontal sinuses. He had a displaced, open fracture of his L radius with associated comminuted (aka pulverized) fracture of his L elbow (olecronon) and an elbow dislocation. He had a fractured R elbow without dislocation and finally a rare anterior left shoulder dislocation. He spent until 4:00 a.m. in the operating room having these pinned, aligned, etc. He was released the next afternoon. This was only possible due to the fact that he luckily had no visceral injuries and no cardiopulmonary trauma. (Source: Brian Irwin)